Blog Tour: The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr
Mr Jameson sounded like a man worried about his business. About the money he would lose if anything went wrong.
(The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr. P42).
Danny has settled into his new home at Belle Vue Zoo and he loves working with the animals and living with the Jamesons. Not everybody is so impressed with the zoo. The Reverend Eustace Threlfall campaigns for the zoo’s closure, and when the animals start escaping, it only gives credibility to his campaign. Danny discovers that the locks have been broken on purpose and he comes under suspicion himself as the boy who once lived on the streets.
Meanwhile, Danny’s father has returned and the news reaches the park that gang leader Frank Scatcherd has broken out of prison.
Can Danny untangle the mystery of the animal escapade, or is it time to move on from Belle Vue and the people he thought were his friends?
Jane Kerr’s debut in 2017, The Elephant Thief, remains one of my favourite books which have reviewed for BookMurmuration. (It was also one of the earliest and published before I moved to WordPress). I was delighted to hear about the sequel and had high expectations. I am delighted to say the second book lived up to the first.
Danny may have settled into his new home, but his past as an orphan on the streets of Edinburgh hangs over him like a shadow. He has lived with the Jamesons but they have never officially adopted him and suspicion still falls on Danny faster than it does on other people. Added to that is the uncertainty about his past. Who his parents are and where he belongs. This informs his character and the question set up in the early part of the story is whether Danny belongs at Belle Vue.
As in the first book, we desperately want things to work out for Danny. His heart is in the right place. He cares for the animals in the park. In the first book, we were firmly on the side of Belle Vue over its cruel competitor, but this book acknowledges that even the best entertainment parks still paved the way for animals to be brought to the UK away from their natural habitats and treated as a source of entertainment. Danny sees beyond that, caring for the animal’s needs and seeing through to their different personalities. He is also a great friend to Hetty, who is having difficulties of her own.
With the Reverend outside the walls of park stirring up distrust and fear and the man who introduces himself as Danny’s father first creeping around at night, there is a dark tone to the mystery. As in book one, we don’t get a handle on everyone’s motives straight away and that makes the outcome more satisfying.
This could be read as a standalone – you don’t need to understand anything more than that Danny came to the park after life on the streets where a gang ruled – but I would recommend reading book one first. Aside from anything else, that is double the adventure but it also shows how Danny came to bond with Maharajah and Hetty.
A lovely return to a favourite fictional world and an insightful look at the zoos and entertainment scene of the 1800s.
The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr is available now from Chicken House Books (Paperback, £6.99).
Thanks to Laura Smythe PR and Chicken House Books for my gifted copy. Opinions my own.